Why are there so many workaholics in the church? Why are so many Christians successful in their career at the expense of their spouse and children? Why do we struggle to find time for ministry, prayer, and Scripture reading but spend way too much time in the office or our work inbox?
You could argue that this a priority problem, where we list career above God and family; I wouldn’t disagree. You could propose that we have a scheduling problem, and revising our daily routine and setting up time restrictions would provide a solution; that certainly could be helpful!
But I don’t think it goes far enough. We have to admit that we have an identity problem that results in wrong priorities and unbalanced schedules.
We have an identity problem because we forget who God is, who we are, and what we have been given in Christ by grace. “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:9, ESV, emphasis mine)
When we suffer from an identity problem, we look horizontally for what we have already been given vertically. Here’s the application to today’s topic: because work is such a significant dimension of our lives, it becomes very tempting to look for our identity in that space.
When you look to work for your identity, you will find it very hard to resist its challenges, demands, and promises of reward.
There are three enticing identities that we can discover in our work:
1. Identity in Achievement and Success
“I am what I have accomplished.”
A trail of achievement seems to make a statement about who you are and what you can do. But the buzz of today’s success will fade, and you’ll need the next success to keep you going and another success to follow it. Without realizing it, success will have morphed from something you enjoyed to something you cannot live without.
2. Identity in Power and Control
“I am in control; therefore, I am.”
In a world where most of us have a variety of people who tell us what to do every day, it is intoxicating to be the person in power. But people who have attached their identity to success and using others to get it always leave a trail of personal and spiritual carnage behind them.
3. Identity in Affluence and Possessions
“I am the size of the pile of stuff I have accumulated.”
Because we are physical people living in a physical world, and because God has given us the capacity to recognize and enjoy beauty, it is tempting to define the “good life” as one filled with beautiful things. It must be stated that the desire for beautiful things is not evil in itself, but if you attach your identity to gaining them, maintaining them, and enjoying them, other areas of your life will suffer.
But what happens when you are committed to finding a deeper identity vertically in Jesus each day?
The biggest achievement in your life will not be anything that you have done, but what Jesus has done for you on the Cross.
You will learn to rest in your lack of control, knowing that by grace, you have been adopted by the Father who has authority over everything, for his glory and your good.
And you will be liberated from continually working to accumulate more of what you hope will give you pleasure, because you are increasingly satisfied in Christ!
1. Is your life of work balanced appropriately? What might your schedule reveal about your priorities?
2. Now, pose that question to someone else who knows you: “Are my spiritual and relational commitments suffering because of my job?” (Fire your inner defense lawyer before asking. Remember, there is nothing that can be exposed about you that hasn’t already been paid for by the blood of Jesus!)
3. Beneath the priorities and schedule, could there be an identity idol? How does your job make you feel about you?
4. When was the last time you felt a “buzz” for an achievement, exercising authority, or buying something? How long did that high last before you pursued another one?
5. What practical solutions can you make this week to balance your work, social, and spiritual life?